Eric Johnson: Anaheim (Vanguard)
Veteran (but still youthful) axe-slinger Eric Johnson has long occupied a place of his own in the guitar hero pantheon for his fleet fingers and exquisite taste. His precision puts him in the league with the prog rock titans, but he’s also a soulful cat with a blues streak. This beautifully made concert DVD offers a 45-minute set of Johnson tearing through nine songs—mostly instrumentals—with his powerful but flexible rhythm section of Tommy Taylor (drums) and Chris Maresh (bass). It’d been a while since I’d heard Johnson (you know it goes…you just lose track of people sometimes) so this was mostly new material to me, and it’s a strong batch of originals and intriguing covers. In the former category, I particularly like Maresh’s churning “Roctopus” and Johnson’s “S.R.V,” a moving, spot-on tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan. In the latter, Johnson leads the band through a peppy version of the Dylan/Byrds classic “My Back Pages,” charges through Hendrix’s “Manic Depression” (always a good choice) and The Monkees’ poppy “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You,” which was written by Neil Diamond. The bonus tracks comprise three softer acoustic performances, with Johnson playing piano on two. Hendrix’s “The Wind Cries Mary” is one of my favorite songs in the world, and I love his piano take on it here. E.J. fans will also enjoy the interview.
Producer: E.J. Director: Hank Lena. Mixers: Richard Mullen and Chet Himes.
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